An essay by Kristie Escoe
Several years ago, my husband and I were newly married and fresh out of college (another way of saying dirt-poor and up to our eyeballs in student-loan debt). He had just begun his career as a junior officer in the USAF and we were stationed at our first assignment in Minot, North Dakota. Unable to bear the thought of our first Christmas away from home and family, and unable to afford airfare, we decided to drive home for the holidays.
In a hurry to get home and not wanting to spend money on a hotel, the plan was to drive the 24-hour trip in shifts and take turns sleeping. As luck would have it, the day we were to leave, an incredible snowstorm hit. We headed off in blizzard conditions in his Mazda B2000 (read: tiny) pickup truck with our 80 pound golden retriever in the cab with us. We were afraid the bed of the truck, even with a shell on it, would be too cold for the dog. After all, the wind chill was over 50 degrees below zero.
There was no place else to sleep, however, but the bed of the truck. Although it wasn’t heated, and wasn’t connected to the cab with one of those sliding windows, we were confident we could successfully take turns sleeping back there; staying warm in my husband’s cold-weather issue sleeping bag. It was the kind of heavy-duty, insulated sleeping bag the soldiers used in W.W.II — the type that zips up completely over your head. The optimist in me (read: young and stupid) saw this all as a grand adventure. I climbed into the bed of the truck to take the first sleep shift. I gave my husband a thumbs-up through the window, zipped myself in, and fell asleep.
When I awoke later, not only was it pitch black inside that bag, and had no idea how much time had elapsed, but the condensation from my breath inside the bag, working against the bitter cold air inside the back of the truck (or some other such scientific explanation) had caused the zipper of the sleeping bag to freeze stuck. I had no way of getting out of the bag, and no way of letting my husband know I was stuck in it since he couldn’t see or hear me. The plan had been for me to knock on the window when I was done sleeping — that obviously wasn’t happening. It took quite a while for me to breathe enough warm air on the zipper to get it thawed out and worked down a few inches. Enough for me to stick one arm out of the bag and wave it around like a madwoman for the fifteen minutes. It THEN took my husband to glance in his rear-view mirror and notice my arm flailing about.
The entire time, I was considering the irony of me, frozen inside a sleeping bag in the back of the truck with the luggage falling over on me, desperately needing to use the bathroom, and my DOG enjoying the comfortable warmth of the heated cab. You can bet from then on if we didn’t have enough money for a hotel, we just didn’t travel.
Copyright © 1999-2008 by Kristie Escoe
All rights reserved.
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